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Men's Volleyball Q&A: Alex Gettinger

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Alex Gettinger, a freshman outside hitter on the men's volleyball team, tells us about his transition from high school volleyball to playing here at Pepperdine and what it's like to play under new head coach David Hunt:

Alex  Gettinger

Q: How was your first semester at Pepperdine?

A: It was very different and interesting. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri, where it's a lot colder and moves a lot faster compared to Malibu. I felt like I had a lot of free time here, more than I did in high school. It was nice getting used to being here.

Q: What led you to play volleyball at Pepperdine?

A: The coaches. Coach Hunt is an amazing coach. He learned a lot from the last head coach, Marv Dunphy.

Q: How have your first few weeks of season been?

A: It's been good! We lost this week to UC Irvine but it was a good match. I think the team is learning a lot.

Q: How did you feel playing in your first college match?

A: It was really cool. We played Cal Lutheran and going into the third set, having won the first two, Coach told me that I would be going in and I was really excited about it.

Q: What's it like playing volleyball at Pepperdine versus in high school or for the USA Youth and Junior teams?

A: Here, we lift three or four times a week and practice every day, which is a lot more than I did before. During high school and club, we didn't get that same volume of practice that we do here and we weren't required to lift.

Q: How do you feel playing for David Hunt, in his first year as head coach?

A: I think he's doing a fantastic job. I'm learning a lot from him and I'm sure my teammates are as well. It's a lot different than before. He's so knowledgeable about volleyball and it's so great to learn from him.

Q: What can we expect looking forward at the rest of your season?

A: From me, I'm just going to be ready to come in whenever Coach wants me to. From the team, I would say we're just going to be competitive. Our conference is always top level, so we just have to keep training and competing but I think we'll do well.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of your volleyball career at Pepperdine?

A: I would like to play as much as possible especially over the next couple of years as I develop a bit more. I also hope that we can continue to improve as a team. It will be competitive, but it would be really amazing if we could make it to NCAAs.

Peyton Langston is a first-year Wave, but she's one of the most experienced players on the women's basketball team after playing for three seasons at Evansville before heading to Malibu as a graduate transfer. She's second on the team at 8.5 points per game. Here are some of her thoughts on the season so far:

Peyton  Langston

Q: We are 10 games into the season and the WCC season is about to start. How do you feel the team has performed so far?

A: I think that we are performing well. There are definitely some things that we can improve on, but I feel that we can definitely make some solid changes as conference starts.

Q: Coming in as a transfer student, how was the transition to Malibu been?

A: It has been good. The coaching style that I had come from has definitely been different. The practices are really different, but I was able to adjust pretty quickly.

Q: Speaking of coaching styles, what has been the biggest difference between your old coaches, and Coach DeLisha Milton-Jones?

A: Coach DeLisha definitely has a more pro-style mindset. Her practices are more focused on game-like situations instead of just drills. We are doing things that will help us on gameday rather than just going through the motions of basketball practices.

Q: Was it difficult to mesh with the team coming in?

A: Definitely not. They were all really welcoming and friendly.

Q: How do you feel that you have performed personally up to this point in the season?

A: I feel like in the beginning, I performed really well, but the past few games I haven't really played to my true standard. But the season isn't over, so there is definitely time to make adjustments and get back to how I know I should be playing.

Q: Where do you feel is the team's biggest strength?

A: Our biggest strength is attacking the basket. We face a lot of zone defense, because teams know we can attack the hoop. We have been able to break the zone pretty effectively and continue to play to our strengths.

Q: How have you been able to break the zone to continue to get those successful baskets?

A: We have been practicing finding the weak spots in the zone so we can play to our strengths. We also try to push the ball down the court in transition so we don't have to even face the zone.

Q: How has Coach Milton-Jones helped you out both as a team and personally?

A: As a team, she knows what she is doing. She and her coaching staff are always on top of things, and one step ahead of everything. They are always going over film and looking for the small details. She prepares us for the small things that would normally fly under our radar, but are really important. Personally, she motivates me and tries to get me to work on things so I can better help the team.

Q: Finally, what can we expect from the Waves for the rest of the season?

A: You can expect and exciting rest of the basketball season, and for us to shake the conference up.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Darnell Dunn

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Darnell Dunn, a junior forward and a first-year men's basketball player after transferring here this year, discusses what led him to play for Pepperdine and how he hopes to improve throughout the rest of the season:

Darnell  Dunn

Q: How did you start playing basketball?

A: Basketball has always been in my family. My dad played in college, my uncles and my mom also played basketball. My dad was also a high school coach so I've always been around it.

Q: How were your first two basketball seasons at your previous colleges?

A: They were definitely learning experiences. I played at the junior college level as well as the Division II level so they were both really different. Playing the game is fun, no matter what, but it's even better now that I can play at the Division I level.

Q: How did you choose to come all the way to California, being a North Carolina native?

A: After I had a solid season in junior college, Pepperdine was one of the schools that caught interest in me. I've always liked adventuring and seeing new places so it felt right. Playing in the WCC was also something that I thought would be really cool.

Q: How has your first semester at Pepperdine been going?

A: It's been interesting. It's definitely an adjustment going back to a four-year college after being at a two-year one. The main focus for me has really been the school aspect because it's more intense than what I'm used to. I've also been trying to balance school with my basketball schedule.

Q: What is your role on the Pepperdine basketball team?

A: Right now, my role has been to come off the bench and bring energy and score when possible. Also, to defend and get rebounds.

Q: You used to play with current Lakers player, Brandon Ingram, in high school. Have you stayed in touch with him and gone to any of his games since moving out here?

A: I've been to a few of his games. He's like my brother, we grew up together so it's nice to just hang out with him on the weekends.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?

A: For us to get back on track. We've had a rocky start to the season and we're trying to find ourselves right now with a young team and a lot of new players. We're just hoping to turn this ship around. I know what we are capable of as a team and we haven't shown that yet.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of your time at Pepperdine?

A: My priority is to graduate and get my degree because I know that basketball isn't going to be forever, but I would also like to maximize my basketball potential and see where that can take me.

Women's Basketball Q&A: Tylinn Carter

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Tylinn Carter is a graduate transfer who is starting at forward for the Pepperdine women's basketball team. She is averaging 6.5 points through eight games. She shares what it's like to be playing as a graduate student and how she is feeling about her team's ability:

Tylinn  Carter

Q: What is it like being a graduate transfer? Is it weird to only be here for one season?

A: It is very different from my undergrad, especially since I am pursuing my master's in an online program. I have more free time than usual and I love it. I wouldn't say it is weird to be here for one season, but it is definitely heartbreaking. I only have one year to teach my younger teammates so I am hoping to make the best out of it and help them grow as basketball players.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine for grad school?

A: I chose to attend Pepperdine for grad school because it is a top academic school. I also did my research about the program I am pursuing and instantly grew an interest for it.

Q: What is it like playing for DeLisha Milton-Jones?

A: It is an absolute joy and a blessing to play for Coach DeLisha Milton-Jones. It's amazing to have a coach who understands the game and actually played at the level I am trying to get to. Because of her, I continue to play the game I love and have taken an interest in playing professionally again. I am truly grateful to have her as my coach to end my collegiate career.

Q: How have your first few games here gone? Do you feel like starting put you into a leadership role?

A: My first five games didn't go how I planned. I felt like I haven't contributed enough to my team and it hurt me, but I have picked it up the last game and I plan on staying consistent for the remainder of the season. I definitely feel like starting has put me in a leadership role because I believe my coach trusts me enough to lead by example and to start off the game strong.

Q: What did you expect for yourself this year with how much you would play and contribute?

A: Honestly, I expected to average a double-double and lead my team to the WCC championship. Now, I am letting the game come to me, and playing the best defense I can possibly play.

Q: Describe your game. What are your strengths? What are things you still want to work on?

A: I am very versatile. I can shoot and take my defender off the dribble. People may underestimate me because I play the post, but I can do a lot more than just make a post move to the basket. Some things I still want to work on are my counter moves and using my left hand more often.

Q: How do you compare your time at Delaware State, CSU Bakersfield and now Pepperdine?

A: Pepperdine is by far the best school I have been to as far as academics and athletic experience. I've never had a better coaching staff and the trainers are great. I love how Pepperdine is a Christian school and everyone seems to be moralistic and have their minds set on the right things. My past schools don't compare in that nature.

Q: How do you feel about the team?

A: I believe we can win the West Coast Conference. Although we are young, we are very talented and coachable. I think these aspects will take us very far in the season.

Q: What are your goals for this year for yourself and your team?

A: My goal for the team is to have a winning record and finish my collegiate career with a ring. I plan to keep being a leader and stay consistent on the court.

Q: Who are you most excited to play this year and why?

A: I am most excited to play Gonzaga because they won the conference last year. I was also being recruited by them coming out of high school.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Colbey Ross

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Colbey Ross is a freshman guard for the Pepperdine's men's basketball team. He's off to a great start, averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists. He explains how his adjustment to college has been, along with his hopes for himself and his team this year:

Colbey  Ross

Q: How have your first few months at Pepperdine been?

A: It has been great. My classes and teachers have been really good. I have been trying to adapt and learn my schedule and how to balance school and sports and how to be successful in both. Then, in basketball, it has been great being able to start and just being with my teammates has been the best thing for me.

Q: How has the start of the season gone?

A: Some of the games haven't gone as we planned. We have had some tough ones where we should have pulled out a win. We are learning every game but we still have to fix little things on defense if we want the results we know we are capable of. I feel like I am getting into more of a groove and have more leadership, which is helping my confidence on the court.

Q: What was it like to average 23 points during the home Legends Classic games? And how did both of those games go?

A: It was a fun experience getting to play at home for those games in front of our crowd. My teammates were helping me find plays to be successful and score. I was playing with more confidence and it started to show, I was making more shots and the flow of the game became more natural. We ended up winning one out of the two we played. They were both tough games.

Q: How did it feel to lead your team to a comeback win over Oral Roberts?

A: It felt good but everyone did their part and it was really a team effort. My shot was falling, which helped on the offensive end, but we all came together to get the win.

Q: What was it like playing in and starting at your first home game?

A: It was crazy having all the fans come out to support us. Putting on the jersey and playing D-I basketball was a dream I have always had and just to be able to go out and play has been really fun and cool.

Q: Do you think that summer workouts helped you fit in better with all the guys?

A: Definitely, having 16 other guys competing against each other and with each other and overall working hard together, I feel like that made it easier for everyone to get along and then push each other to become better.

Q: How has your adjustment to college been?

A: It has been good. You don't have anyone telling you to do your homework or having your mom telling you dinner is ready. You have to find a balance of when to do homework, when to eat and then when to get extra workouts in. I feel like it has been good and that I have found that balance and I think I am doing pretty well right now.

Q: What is the major difference between college and high school basketball and how are you adjusting?

A: It definitely is the speed and how everyone out there is so athletic. But I think I have a pretty high IQ for the game so I still understand the game and I feel like it lets me be a step ahead of my competition.

Q: How do you feel you contribute to the team?

A: Mainly by being a leader. I know I am a freshman but stepping into a leadership role and working hard for my teammates to make everyone better. Then doing what the coaches tell me and hopefully help us to get wins.

Q: What are your goals?

A: My goal is to win a West Coast Conference championship. That is a big goal for me. To get at least 20 wins in the season, I think, would be really big for our team. Then just to become a better player. I don't really care about stats or starting or not, I just want to become better and help my teammates win and to have the coaches be able to trust me.

Q: What is it like playing for Coach Wilson?

A: It has been great. He has trust in me but he definitely is on me and is going to continue to be on me to make sure I am reaching my full potential. I am going to work hard for him and do whatever he tells me to get better and learn to look at the game differently.

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: The coaches had a really big influence on me coming. The location of course, you definitely can't beat it. Then being in the conference we are in and being able to play Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU, which are all great teams. Those are the teams I want to be playing to increase my level of play.

Women's Swimming Q&A: Amy Griffin

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Amy Griffin, a freshman freestyler on the women's swim team, has made a huge splash on the team during her first semester. She tells us about her accomplishments thus far and her hopes as she continues her swimming career here at Pepperdine:

Amy  Griffin

Q: How did you choose to come to Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine for a number of reasons, including the beautiful campus, close community, swim team and proximity to home, but mainly because of the Christian values in and out of the classroom.

Q: How has your first semester been going with balancing swimming and school?

A: My first semester has been difficult being a sports med major with hard science classes. It's hard to find enough time to study while still getting eight hours of sleep before practice every morning.

Q: What do hope to do with your degree some day?

A: I'm interested in going into either physical therapy or nursing.

Q: You were awarded the PCSC Division I Athlete of the Week award a few weeks ago. How did that feel?

A: I was really surprised to be awarded athlete of the week but it was really exciting and it felt really good to be recognized.

Q: You had an outstanding performance at the recent A3 Invitational. How did you prepare for your first big collegiate meet?

A: To prepare for A3, I tried to get enough sleep at night to stay healthy and to be ready to work hard at practice in the morning while still having the energy for afternoon practice. In addition, I try to eat well and eliminate junk food, only eating food that I knew would give me more energy in the pool.

Q: What is the team dynamic like?

A: With a team of 40 women it is hard for everyone to be close. However, I've found a good group of close friends on the team and have been trying to get to know everyone. I love encouraging and cheering for my teammates and if you radiate a positive attitude, other people will respond in a similar way.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the swim season?

A: My goal for the rest of season is obviously to improve and drop time in my events. I also want to not focus too much on times because I think it is more important to have fun and learn life lessons than swim .1 seconds faster.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish, in swimming, in your four years at Pepperdine?

A: In the next four years of swimming at Pepperdine, I hope to be a leader through encouraging my team and supporting my girls. I want to be seen as a trustworthy and hardworking teammate. Most importantly I want to glorify God whether I have a good or bad race and radiate joy.

Men's Tennis Update: Scotland Garapedian

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Scotland Garapedian, a junior on the Pepperdine men's tennis team, provides this update after the conclusion of the Waves' fall schedule. He writes about an example of how the tennis program is preparing him for the real world:

Scotland  Garapedian

For the 2 1/2 years that I've been part of an elite Division I program, I often find myself asking the question, "How will I use the habits learned on the tennis team, and apply it to the real world, or better known as -- life after college?"

It was just about a month ago where we had a conditioning session that required each player to be ready to go by 8:30 a.m. That morning we had each player show up before 8:30 a.m. except for one ... He arrived at 8:30. Showing up on the time you are supposed to is considered late on our team.

Why? Let's take this scenario: Say you have a job interview one morning and you have to be there by 8:30 a.m. The other guy you are interviewing against arrives 10 minutes early, and you rush into the door at 8:30 a.m. Automatically, the odds are against you because you were not early and prepared. In the words of our strength and conditioning coach, Tubbs, "Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail."

Our team has learned a lot about a situation like this by the fact that we have done a lot better job of showing up not only on time, but arriving 10 minutes early to all of our workouts. Because of that, showing up on time now means showing up 10 minutes early. A simple habit like this is something we can use for our careers in the real world.

Now, I can go on and on about other habits I have learned on the tennis team that will help me in my career, but it is most important to realize that I have learned just as much about bettering myself as a human being, than I have learned about bettering my tennis game. Our coach preaches to us on a daily basis that the habits we create here on the team will correlate to how we will manage our lives out of college.

It is scary sometimes thinking about getting out of college and having to deal with the stresses that will come with a job and career. That is why our program prides itself not on how many wins we get in a season, but how many players will be successful years after they graduate. And by success, I don't mean money, I mean leading a happy and purposeful life.

I truly believe this can be achieved with the simple little habits we implement into our lives, such as showing up on time. But we can come to know that these habits need purpose. That purpose is different for each person on the team, but leads to the same direction ... and that is to better ourselves as human beings. The real world is something we as players on the team will be ready for.

Baseball Q&A: Kiko Garcia

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Senior pitcher Kiko Garcia of the Pepperdine baseball team tells us about the intrasquad Blue & Orange World Series that recently took place and what he hopes for moving forward with his baseball career:

Kiko  Garcia

Q: What's the atmosphere of the Blue and Orange World Series like?

A: This year, the team decided to make the Series very competitive so it is more game-like than a normal scrimmage. It ended up being pretty heated toward the end but we play better like that.

Q: What was it like being both a coach and a player at this year's series?

A: It made me be more engaged in the games because I had to constantly be mapping out our pitching throughout the game along with making sure I was ready to play. It also made winning the Series feel even better!

Q: How does it feel to be going into your final season of Pepperdine baseball?

A: It's definitely a weird feeling knowing that there's not going to be another season after this but it also makes me incredibly motivated to try and go out on a positive note.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in this upcoming season?

A: Obviously, the goal every year is to go to Omaha, for the NCAA Tournament, but it has to start with coming back out here in the spring and doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be successful.

Q: How have you improved as a player in your four years at Pepperdine?

A: I think the biggest difference is my mentality. The improvement I have noticed there has 100% translated into better performances on the field, which I have to thank Coach Garza for. He places a large importance on having a positive mentality when most coaches completely overlook that component. Baseball is such a mental game and a positive adjustment there can really take your game to the next level. 

Q: How has the team as a whole improved in your time at Pepperdine?

A: I think the team has gotten closer over the last few years. Each year, the upperclassmen increasingly push for the team to do things together on a consistent basis. This year's team is as close as I have ever seen a baseball team here and I am excited to see how that carries over into the season.

Q: If you could go back and tell your freshman-self one thing, what would it be?

A: I think it would be to know that I am here for a reason and to not hold anything back. I was very tentative my freshman year and that does not work when baseball revolves around conviction in what you are doing. Also, to seek more advice from the older guys on the team. The best source of advice would be the guys who went through the exact same thing you did.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?

A: Ideally, I would like to continue my baseball career for as long as I can. If that does not work out, I want to finish my MBA at the graduate school here and see where that takes me.

Corinne Quiggle, a senior on the Pepperdine beach volleyball team, has represented the United States in international competition several times and most recently in China. She took the silver medal at the Shenzhen International Festival. She tells us about this experience as well as her goals for this season and her future:

Corinne  Quiggle

Q: You recently played for Team USA at a tournament in China? Tell me about that experience.

A: I played with my old partner that went to Pepperdine last year (Brittany Howard). She is a graduate student now in Spain and it was so fun. It was such a cool experience to be in China and represent the U.S. It was really cool because of the people in China and the culture being so different. Some of the people that came to watch had never seen anything like this. They had never been to a beach volleyball tournament and for them, this was such a huge event. We were giving out some U.S. things, like mini-volleyballs, hats, pins and stickers and people started sobbing. It made the experience really worth it because it felt like we were doing something more.

Q: How was it playing for Team USA?

A: I have represented the U.S. in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, so I have played for Team USA before. It was such a cool experience to travel as a division to China because typically I have been traveling as an individual and not in a group. It was really fun to have another U.S. team there and an official coach and manager. There is nothing like it.

Q: Did you enjoy playing with your former teammate, Brittany Howard, again?

A: It was so fun playing with her. We had not played together in a while since she has been in Spain. It took us a day to get back in our rhythm, but after that it was so fun to be back together.

Q: How did you get selected to play in China?
A:
We played in a tournament after the National Championships, where the U.S. teams from the collegiate groups played each other. We got third in that tournament, and they took the second and third teams to China.

Q: Since it is your senior year, is there anything you want to accomplish before you graduate?

A: I want to win a national championship. We have been close every year. Last year we were two points away. This year, I obviously want to win that before I leave. That's definitely the biggest thing.

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: Past this season, I want to play professionally, so this year I really want to focus on improving myself and taking advantage of all the resources that Pepperdine offers. Other than that my goals are to win and have a successful team by creating a great team culture and bond.

Q: What is your role on the team, on and off the court?

A: As a senior, I have had to step up into a bigger leadership role this year. I have been navigating that and trying to create a team culture based on my own actions and leading by example. I am trying to help the freshmen whenever they need it and lead us all on a path to success so we can reach our goals. I know that everyone on the team has the same goals and I think that is an amazing thing for a team to have. We are all trying to work to get all the pieces together to create the best team possible.

Q: What will you miss the most about playing for Pepperdine?

A: Probably the team culture. It is cool how it is set up that it is bigger than yourself. You can lose one of your games, but your team still wins. I think that is a really awesome part of playing for school and NCAA. I will really miss all the girls and the camaraderie that comes with playing with the team.

Q: What advice would you give to your freshman self?

A: I think first I would tell myself to work hard and focus more on school. I also would tell myself to take my time and really appreciate every part of school because it really went by fast for me. Now it is all coming to an end and I wish that I would have really been in each moment of my life rather than it all catching up now my senior year.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Jade' Smith

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Jade' Smith is a freshman on the Pepperdine men's basketball team. He tells us what he will bring to the team, how he feels about being at Pepperdine and what he thinks about his new team:

Jade'  Smith

Q: How have your first couple months on campus been?

A: My first couple of months of school have been really nice. I am really enjoying college. The Pepperdine community is very welcoming as well with the basketball team. I love the guys. The older guys have been helping me get through classes. They have been motivating me to stay on top of schoolwork, as well as finding time to get in the gym. 

Q: How are you and the whole freshman group fitting in?

A: Colbey, Trae, and I have been able to fit in very well with the team. The team has been very welcoming, which has made it easy for us to fit right in with what Coach Wilson has going.

Q: What are you expecting to get out of this season? What are you expecting of yourself this season and in the future?

A: I'm expecting this season to be a good season because we have the talent to be a great team. As an individual this season I'm expecting to help my team in any way possible whether that's with scoring, getting a stop, and or just bringing energy. For my future my number one goal is to play professional basketball.

Q: A lot of great guards have come from Oakland and your high school. Are you trying to be next in line or live up to those expectations?

A: Of course I want to be known as one of the great guards to come out of Oakland. I definitely feel like I can be next in line. I just have to grind because I know that every player in the league was not just given anything, they worked for it all.

Q: Is there any bond between you and Amadi since you are both from the same area?

A: Amadi is my guy! That's like family to me. He's been watching me play since I was in eighth grade. I'm close to his little brother, we played on the same AAU team. But having Amadi at Pepp, and being able to play alongside him, is a great opportunity for me, because I can learn from him.

Q: Describe your game. What are your strengths and what are you looking to improve?

A: I'm a high-energy guy that can run an offense. I can get stops on the defensive end and push the ball in transition. I can facilitate the ball well and get others involved. I'm looking to improve my jump shot. I want to become consistent.

Q: What upperclassmen on the team do you look up to?

A: I look up to all the upperclassman guys because they all have more experience than I do. They all know more than I do because they've played on this level longer than I have. I have nothing but respect and take in all advice from my upperclassmen. 

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because I fell in love with the campus and of course the view! But the coaching staff is unbelievable. They're a group of genuine guys who want the best for you. I know I can sit down with any coach and talk about something personal outside of basketball. When I came on my visit the team was very welcoming to my family and myself and I just felt like this is best place for me for basketball and outside of basketball.

Women's Volleyball Q&A: Hana Lishman

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Sophomore libero Hana Lishman talks about how she got into volleyball as well as her experience going from an attacking to a defensive position:

Hana  Lishman

Q: What are your goals now and for the rest of your career?

A: For this season, I think we just want to finish strong and right now we're definitely going up. This has been a good learning season for us. We're definitely taking those lessons and trying to improve a lot. For the next two years, I would say, just to continue with this growth of just being better and improving and helping my teammates out. Just growing in the sport mentally and physically and just being the best I can for my team and with my team.

Q: How are you feeling about the new additions to the team this year?

A: We had four incoming freshmen and they have all been great additions to the team. They fit very well with us as a whole. Not as many new people because we were a really young team last year and this year we brought back everyone, which was great, because that strong bond was already there. We had a junior transfer named Blossom Sato come in along with other freshmen and even though they were new to the team, they fit really well and everything has been really smooth.

Q: You are from Hawai'i. What would you say has been different about the transition from Hawai'i to Malibu?

A: The nicest change has been the view. Where I live in Hawaii the beach is like 30 seconds from my house but this view is just amazing. Having the beach right there has been amazing because it's just like home. It's only one flight out to get home and my coach is from Hawai'I, which is great, because we have our own inside jokes and we talk about Hawai'i a lot, which is always nice. So the transition really wasn't too bad. The people here have been really nice and kind and I love how a lot of my teammates enjoy the fact that I'm Hawaiian. They're always asking me how to say different things in Hawaiian and I really love it. In my freshman year we went to Hawai'i for one of our tournaments and everyone really embraced the culture, enjoying the food and everything, so they all made the transition really easy.

Q: Your real first name is Dallas. Why do you more commonly go by Hana?

A: Well, Hana actually comes from my middle name, Kamehanaokala, which means warmth of the sun in Hawaiian. My parents named me Dallas because my dad is a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys even though we have no connection to Dallas, Texas, whatsoever. My dad always wanted to name one of his sons Dallas. Before I was born, my parents thought I was going to be a boy and when they found out that I was a girl, my mom said she didn't want more kids so they just named me Dallas. Growing up, I've gotten used to being called Hana because nobody really called me Dallas. Sometimes people do call me Dallas and I just take a little more time to respond because I'm not used to it, but as I've gotten older I've started liking it a lot more. As for why I'm called Hana, like I mentioned, it comes from my middle name, which was really hard to pronounce so we just cut it short to Hana.

Q: You were an outside hitter in high school and now you're a libero. How have you handled the change of going from an attacking position to a defensive position?

A: In Hawai'i I'm actually considered tall, which is funny, because I don't really think I'm that tall. I've always been in an outside position for club volleyball and high school and with it comes a lot of passing like defense and serve receive so I had a lot of training with those libero skills. So the transition wasn't hard because I already had a lot of it under my belt. But the transition did put me out of my comfort zone in terms of talking on the court. I was always a silent player but in this position I have to talk a lot. I knew I needed to, but it was just hard stepping out of my shell. I still wouldn't say it's easy, but my coaches and teammates were super encouraging and they really helped push that door open so it's been great.

Q: How did you get into volleyball?

A: I started volleyball when I was 6 or 7 years old. My parents were always really into sports and they wanted me and my siblings to get into sports at a young age. They signed us up for a lot of different sports and I tried a few but I only stuck with volleyball and soccer. At one point, I actually quit volleyball and just played soccer for a bit until I started to miss playing volleyball and so I went back to playing both. After a point my parents wanted me to stick with just one because they wanted me to focus on my school and so I picked volleyball. My parents were my coaches for a while and then I moved onto club. I started off playing with my family friends so it was nice growing with people I knew and was comfortable with so we could all help each other out, learning more about the game, developing my skills and positions and things like that. It's taught me so many values, which don't just help me on the court, but off the court as well and just generally it's really helped me grow as a person.

Q: How has your transition from freshman to sophomore been?

A: Honestly, I do feel a lot more mature and confident on the court. Being a freshman on the court, there's a lot of pressure and stress and so my coaches and teammates really helped me feel confident about myself and trust myself when I'm out there. As I said before, I used to be a shy player but they really helped me crack that shell and that's why I've felt so much better this year. When I came back, I knew what I needed to do and I knew how to do it. Also after having gone through it all, I've wanted to help the freshmen coming in and give them tips and advice on how to grow. I want to be able to help them the way my teammates helped me because I understand how stressful it can be. I'd say more than my skills, my mentality switched and definitely in a good way.

Women's Swimming Q&A: Kayla Smith

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Kayla Smith, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's swim and dive team, tells us why she chose to transfer to Pepperdine and why she feels the swim and dive team is so special:

Kayla  Smith

Q: Why did you choose to transfer to Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because it is close to home and I really missed being at a Christian school. I also wanted to be more challenged with my education and when I visited Pepperdine in high school, I loved the atmosphere.

Q: How does your last school, Lynn University, compare to Pepperdine?

A: I had one of the most memorable and fun years of life living in South Florida and attending Lynn University. I made friends that will last a lifetime and I learned how to live on my own, being all the way across the country, but it wasn't the perfect fit for me. I wanted to look back at my college years being challenged by hard curriculum and loving swim. Due to this, I made the decision to come to Pepperdine and I love it here.

Q: How has your first semester been going?

A: My first semester at Pepperdine has been extremely challenging, I have never had so much homework, or been in a lecture hall where my professor doesn't know me. It's definitely different and challenging, but I knew what I signed myself up for when deciding to transfer. Swimming has been amazing this first semester at Pepperdine, I love the team and the coaches. I have found my passion for swimming again and love going to practice and training with my teammates who push me. The sets are challenging, but fun at the same time. The girls are always cheering for each other and staying hyped. The team atmosphere is the best I've ever experienced.

Q: How have you connected with the girls on your team so far?

A: I have connected with the girls incredibly. I feel like they are my all my sisters. Considering it is a huge team of 40 girls, I feel like I genuinely know each and every one of them and can go to them for anything! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity of training and being a part of this team.

Q: How are the coaching styles different at Lynn versus at Pepperdine?

A: At Lynn, the coaching style was distance workouts with quality, with hard race sets four times a week. Lynn was very different in the sense that we never did drills or stretching. At Pepperdine, the coaches care a lot about the team camaraderie and each and every person as an individual. School is important to the coaches here at Pepperdine and acknowledge swimming comes second. The coaches know when to push us but also balance that with when we need recovery.

Q: What are your personal goals for this season?

A: My personal goal for this season is to break a minute in the 100 butterfly and go best times in my events at conference. Although I want to swim fast, I also want to have a blast!

Q: A3 is a big meet and is coming up next week. How are you feeling about it?

A: Next week for A3 I am feeling confident and excited to suit up with a tech suit and race. It's been a while since I've suited up, since February actually. I am anxious to see what I can do with the change in training/coaching.

Q: What can we expect from the swim and dive team for the rest of the season?

A: You can expect the best results from the swim team this year. Everybody is really working hard not only in the pool, but also in the weight room. I've been hearing all the girls say how the team is better than it ever has been and we can't wait to see what we can do!

Morgan Bedford, a junior on Pepperdine's cross country and track teams, is very active here on campus. She explains the activities she is involved in and how those have impacted her:

Morgan  Bedford

Q: Where did you study abroad last year?

A: I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the full academic year.

Q: How has the transition back to Pepperdine from abroad been?

A: Initially the transition was very easy. It felt very normal to be back. I was driving along PCH the very first day I arrived back in Malibu and it felt like I had never left. As the days go by, it gets a little bit easier, but there are things that pop up, like thinking about what I was doing a year ago today. Those little things make it harder, but because there was a really strong house community in Lausanne, it has been an easy transition. I run into people I studied abroad with every day, so that has really helped.

Q: What was your favorite memory from abroad?

A: A lot of my favorite memories happened with the people in the house. They were moments that were unplanned and unexpected. There was one afternoon when a friend and I had just finished lunch and we decided to go to Evian, which is a little French town across the lake. There was another moment when my friend and I were walking down to the lake and we had to pass by the train station. We thought about how crazy it was that we could just hop on a train and go to Italy and we decided right then to go to Italy. Those moments of being truly present were the best.

Q: The last time you were interviewed for this blog, you talked about your experience with Model UN. Are you still participating in that, and if so, what are you doing with it?

A: This year I am the vice president for Model UN. There are a lot of different odd jobs that I get to do. The first is supporting the president and the director of education with running and preparing for the meetings. I help with the position papers the team will have to write before conference and help prep for the resolution papers that we will write during the conference. Recently I have started Model UN Mondays with Morgan, which is a time when any of the members of the team can come by to get help or ask questions.

Q: You were recently invited to attend the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations' Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington, D.C. Tell me a little about what that event was and your experience there.

A: The conference was for fellows of the Council, students, military members and for other government officials. One of my mom's colleagues invited me to attend because he knew it was something I was interested in. During the conference I learned a lot and it helped solidify future interests in working in the Middle East. It was interesting to hear all the former ambassadors, Saudi princes, diplomats and others come and speak on their experience and what students can do if the Middle East is of interest to them. It was challenging to understand all the different viewpoints because they are all very deeply rooted in tribal relations, and as things happen, the situation changes. It was also a great way to meet people and network.

Q: You also have done an internship with Senator Tim Kaine. Is working in politics something that you are interested in doing once you have graduated?

A: Very much so. From working and learning about politics I have become more interested in policy and writing the policies that are being implemented. If I could do anything, I would probably want to reestablish diplomatic ties with countries that we currently don't have ties with, such as Iran or North Korea. I think that would be really interesting because the relationships that we have with countries are really important despite our disagreements. I would love to be a part of the negotiation process and formally write the treaties to establish the diplomatic relations.

Q: What are your goals for this year's track and cross country seasons?

A: I think coming back from abroad, my goals are to be a resource to the younger members on the team. I think I have a unique position. I have never run cross country before, and a lot of them have, so they are teaching me about the sport. And, I can be a resource for them for academics, spiritual life or studying abroad. The other goal has been to continue to challenge myself and see what it is like to run cross country. So far it has been very challenging, so I have a greater respect for my teammates.

Q: How are you managing all that you do and run cross country and track?

A: I cannot do it on my own. I think that when I have tried to do all of these things on my own it is just a complete mess. Having a good support system and a strong faith and being able to be open about my struggles with balancing everything has been very helpful. Being vulnerable to the fact that I am human and I cannot do everything without my support system have helped me continue going. My team and my coaches are a huge part of my support system. My coaches have done everything they possibly can to support me on and off the track, which is really cool to see in a Division I school.

Women's Swim/Dive Q&A: Lauren Stigers

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Lauren Stigers, a senior diver and breaststroker on the women's swim and dive team, tells us about how the team has grown in her time here and what she hopes for the rest of the season:

Lauren  Stigers

Q: How do you feel the season has been going so far?

A: I think the season is off to a great start! We've had two meets at home, which I've noticed helped the new girls form with our team. Our new recruits bring a lot of character and are really talented so I think it's going to be a great season!

Q: You do swimming and diving. What's it like balancing the two?

A: It's definitely a unique perspective. A lot of people just think about swimming and forget that we have divers too, so doing both is challenging but rewarding, because I've really been able to bring both the divers and the swimmers together. Swimming and diving have very different mentalities but both are really crucial to the success of the team.

Q: As a senior, how do you think the team has progressed in your time here?

A: I've seen such great improvements. First, we started off with 18 girls on the team my freshman year and we've grown to have over 35 girls now. We've also improved a lot in the weight room and received a lot of fast girls throughout my time here which have helped the team mature as a whole.

Q: Congrats on getting into Kentucky's pharmacy school. How do you feel Pepperdine has prepared you for this next step in your life?

A: Thank you! Pepperdine has done a lot for me but the biggest thing is the fact that I am an athlete. I talked a lot about being on the swim and dive team in my interviews and applications because it's really shaped the person I am today by teaching me about leadership and working well with my team.

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: Usually it would be to just get best times and personal bests, and although I still want to do well this season, I really just want to focus on making the most out of my time here and making memories.

Q: What can we expect from the swim and dive team during the rest of the season?

A: Definitely an improvement in our times and scores at our conference meet. We're hoping to place within the top three this year at conference as well. At our first meet of the season against San Diego State, although we didn't win, we did really well so I think the girls are really stepping up to the plate and it's exciting!

Q: What are your hopes for the team after you graduate?

A: I hope that we can hone in on getting more really good quality girls in the coming years and help all the returning girls find their specific place on the team. The team has come a really long way these past few years but I just hope we continue to improve.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with Pepperdine swimming and diving thus far?

A: I have two. The first is our meet that we have at Cal Poly every year. It's a short dual meet but we always make a good trip out of it by stopping in Morro Bay and Solvang. It's always a great time for the girls to bond. The other one is our conference meet. Every year it's really amazing to see all the girls come together and cheer for one another as we seek to achieve greatness.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Matthew Atewe

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Matthew Atewe is a graduate transfer on the men's basketball team. He talks about how his experiences playing Division I basketball have helped him take on the role of a leader at Pepperdine:

Matthew  Atewe

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I think Pepperdine was just the best fit for me. I was able to trust the coaches and the coaching staff and I really liked the players. Apart from basketball, just having the opportunity to get a degree in one year from a school like Pepperdine was a pretty big deal for me.

Q: How has Pepperdine been different from Washington? How have you been liking it?

A: The one major difference that I've felt has been the weather. In Malibu, it's sunny every day and that's really nice. This summer, I was here for the majority of August just with the coaching staff and they put a very big emphasis on player development. The whole summer I was able to get in the gym with some of the coaching staff and other guys on the team and develop a camaraderie so we could get better as a team. I think just being around the basketball team has been amazing and I've really loved it.

Q: You have had previous experience playing college ball. How do you feel that experience has been helping you here at Pepperdine?

A: Having been in college for four years, I know how hard you need to practice. I think I can relate to the younger guys and others who are coming in who may not know how it works yet. Just having that experience allows me to be kind of like a leader in that way and help those who are struggling or aren't getting it. For the ones who are, I can just give them advice on things I did and didn't do to help them do better.

Q: How are you feeling about the team and the players this season?

A: I believe as a team we can win a lot this season. I love the excitement we have within the team and the enthusiasm as a whole. Just being successful and making it to postseason is a very big goal of ours and that's what were focused on. Just being able to win and win a lot at a high level.

Q: How has training been so far?

A: Practice has been great. It's been very competitive, which is something you always want. Also, it's been really lively and the guys who just came in have all been super enthusiastic so I've really been loving it so far.

Q: Being one of the older guys, you found yourself to be in a kind of leadership role. How has that been?

A: I think this ties in with the experience aspect but, again, having gone through a lot already has just helped me know what I can do to help the guys who are going through similar things now, including injuries and stuff like that. So basically just showing the guys coming in how to work and how to be a good basketball player and how to be deal with being a college athlete.

Q: Describe your game.

A: I'm able to rebound, score in the post and also just be an anchor defensively. Also being able to block shots and just being all over the place defensively.

Q: Are you excited about your first game?

A: As a team, we're all super excited. Our first game is November 10th against Oklahoma State. All summer and fall we've just been playing against each other so we're definitely ready to go against a different group and hopefully get our first win of the season.

Men's Water Polo Q&A: Zack Rhodes

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Zack Rhodes is a senior goalkeeper for Pepperdine's water polo team. He recently received GCC Player of the Week honors. He explains what it means to receive that and how his senior season is making him feel:

Zack  Rhodes

Q: After your huge 17-save game against Long Beach State you were named GCC Player of the Week. What does getting this honor mean to you?

A: I was happy to receive it, it means a lot to me. But I was happier with how well our team was able to work so well together and stay on top of our roles. When everyone else does their part it makes getting saves and being able to do my job much easier. Without my team I wouldn't have gotten this. It is more of a representation of the entire team's work and proves what we can do at our full potential.

Q: Leading into the GCC Tournament, you are the reigning MVP and you guys are the reigning champs. Does that put pressure or anything on you guys to perform?

A: I do feel like there are certain expectations and we are held to a little higher standard having won it last year. It does put more pressure on us, but better than that, it drives us even more to repeat. For me I go into every tournament with the mindset of playing the best that I can and do everything I can. I am not focused on outside awards like MVP, I just want to be my best and help my team win.

Q: Who would you say your biggest competition is in the GCC Tournament?

A: The University of Pacific, who did get the better of us recently. But I feel like we were making little mistakes and if we fix that we will be okay.

Q: What happens if you win the GCC Tournament?

A: If we win the tournament we are then in line to compete for the NCAA title. But our focus right now is the GCC Tournament and we have to make it through that. Then we can start planning for NCAA Tournament.

Q: Being a senior what can you take away from your four years of water polo at Pepperdine?

A: That's a tough question. I feel like I have learned so much from water polo and it has been a tremendous growing experience. I have learned so many things in the pool that can be translated into real life. The biggest lesson is probably learning how important communication is. It's a necessity to stay on top of everything and communicate since the second you lose that communication you never really know what is going to happen. Another big thing I learned is effort. That you only get out as much as you put in. So if we all put in 100 percent, even if we lose, we can feel good about ourselves knowing we gave it our all.

Q: How does water polo and school work together?

A: Water polo is a huge help with time management, especially with all my homework. It has taught me how to work better in groups and that I always need to know my role. Whether it is in the pool or in a real life situation, once I learned what my role is it has made everything a lot easier.

Q: What does breaking Pepperdine's all-time goalie saves record mean to you?

A: I am really excited that I got that. It has always been one of my goals. Being a goalie you don't get much of a shot at scoring so it was nice to have something to strive for. I really wanted to leave my mark here and I believe I have by breaking that record and now setting it as high as I can make it. That I hope will in turn motivate new freshmen and new goalies to try and break my record and give them something to push for the same way it did for me.

Q: Who has had a big impact on you during your college career and throughout your life?

A: There have been so many people that have come into my life and helped me a lot. Merrill (Moses), my coach, has been very helpful during my career here. He has helped me stay focused and worked with me even when times are rough. It really helps because he can relate to me and he has very high expectations for me, which makes me want to keep pushing everyday. But the person who has influenced me the most is definitely my mom. She has been there for my entire career and been able to push me in the right direction. I can always talk to her and she always helps me get back on track. She is my role model. I just want to try and be a good person and do everything to the best of my ability like I know my mom would. She works hard for my brother and I and she has taught me that there is a lot you can get the harder you work.

Q: What is your favorite memory from college?

A: Winning GCCs was really a great time. Having every piece come together and winning a conference championship made us all feel so accomplished. Then going home after a long hard season knowing that our hard work had paid off. Being a part of that was a phenomenal experience, I couldn't have asked for more. Hopefully we have more experiences like that this year.

Q: How are you feeling about nearing the end of your collegiate career?

A: I have a bunch of mixed feelings. I am sad that it is ending but I have had probably one of the best experiences I could have ever asked for here at Pepperdine. I loved the team and the atmosphere. As bad as it sounds I am going to miss having to wake up at 6 a.m. to get to practice. The people I have met on the team have become my closest friends and basically my brothers. The hardest part will be not seeing everyone every day and having that three-hour stress reliever in the pool all working toward the same goal. I am happy that it did happen. I have learned so much and been so fortunate to be an athlete here at Pepperdine. The discipline I have learned and the ups and downs I have been through, it has all been a great way to learn and an even better foundation for life. Water polo and all its lessons have been a very important part of my journey through Pepperdine.

Men's Golf Q&A: Clay Feagler

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Clay Feagler is a sophomore for the Pepperdine's men's golf team and last week he achieved an amazing feat, getting two holes-in-one on back-to-back days at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. He tells us about this incredible experience:

Clay  Feagler

Q: At your recent tournament you had two holes-in-one. How was that whole experience?

A: This tournament was different for us because we usually don't get to play with our teammates but this one we did get to. That added with each of my holes-in-one was amazing. Since it was my team with me everyone got hyped and started giving high-fives and dogpiling me. It still hasn't sunk in yet that I actually did that.

Q: Take me through your first hole-in-one (during Monday's first round). What did it feel like?

A: It was in the first round, the third hole of the day, a 195-yarder. My coach and I were talking about where to hit it. Then I hit the shot and it was right at the pin so I didn't know if it was going to get there or not. It hit the green, kicked left, then fed right straight into the hole. I was just like, "Whoa." I didn't know what to think but I threw my club up in the air then my teammates rushed and started high-fiving me. It was so cool.

Q: How about the second hole in one (during Tuesday's third round). Was there anything different?

A: This one was during the final round on my fourth hole of the day. I was the first one to hit on the tee so I had no idea what club to hit or how to hit it. So my coach and I decided it was best to go with a 7-iron. It was 179 yards. I hit the shot and this time it was looking really good, it felt more pure than the first one. It hit right on the green and rolled into the hole. It was cool this time because the Michigan coach and team were there so they all congratulated me along with my teammates getting hyped. It was so cool to be there with my team since we are basically brothers and to make a hole-in-one, let alone two, which is just unspeakable.

Q: How many other holes-in-one have you made?

A: I got one when I was 10, which was so long ago that the golf course I got it on doesn't even exist anymore. My dad has made three, so after I got my first one of the tournament he texted me saying, "You are still one behind me." So when I made the next one he said, "Wow, we are tied now." I've had a couple close calls but could never even imagine getting two at one tournament.

Q: How was the rest of your tournament?

A: I ended shooting 5-over-par with a 76 (in the first round), which isn't great. Through the rest of the round I was still a little caught off-guard after making a hole-in-one since I was still shocked. It almost made it harder to keep playing since I had all this energy and my heart was still racing from sinking it that stayed with me through the rest of that round. The second round I shot a 67 and I felt like I bounced back. Then in the final round I had experience on the course from the other rounds so I knew how to play it but the conditions were pretty poor. But I did end up making the other hole-in-one that day so that was really cool.

Q: What were the practices like leading up to this? Was there anything special?

A: It was a just some pretty regular practices leading up. It was just the normal hitting with certain clubs and hitting different flights. We prepared ourselves for what can happen in a competitive atmosphere.

Q: Overall how would you say the tournament went for your team?

A: We finished sixth. We haven't really been playing up to what we usually play to. But last year was pretty similar and we ended up finding it in the spring and making it to the NCAA Championships, which I hope happens again, and I feel like it's going to. This was really a fun week for our whole team, especially me, since for all that to happen was unreal and the addition of being with my team was great.

Q: What's it like with Pepperdine's coaches and your teammates now that it's your second year?

A: It has been great. Last year I didn't know everyone at the start but this year I am good friends with all the guys, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Our coach is a great guy. He helps us with everything, even with school. I feel we have a really good group of guys because we can talk to each other about anything and that they genuinely care about how you are doing.

Q: Last year you achieved All-WCC first team honors. Do you have goals for like that for this year?

A: If I were to answer that a month or two ago I would say my goal is to be player of the year. But now I am just trying to improve my game and get better every day. It would be definitely be cool to be first team again but I am not focusing on that. That would just be an added bonus to me improving my game.

Q: How would you say you adjusted from the high school golf scene to college?

A: In high school you are only playing one team while in college we are playing 15 different teams at once. It is much more team-oriented versus high school. Now I have realized just how much each shot I take counts for my team. But I definitely adjusted better this year and now know more of what to do on the course and how to prevent bad scores. After I learned how to cope with school and golf everything has been much better.

Women's Soccer Q&A: Emily Tanaka

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Emily Tanaka, a senior on the women's soccer team, tells us about how she's grown as a person through her time at Pepperdine and what Pepperdine and this team have meant to her:

Emily  Tanaka

Q: How did you get into playing soccer?

A: I started playing AYSO soccer when I was 5 in Hawai'i. Just kids kicking the ball around and I never really stopped! I thought I might try other sports but soccer just stuck with me.

Q: Being from Hawai'i, how did you choose to come to California and play for Pepperdine?

A: There was an older girl on the team before me from Hawai'i who was a senior when I was a freshman. She was someone that I really looked up to when we played club together. When Coach Tim (Ward) approached me about coming to play at Pepperdine and I saw the school and met the team, I knew I wanted to come here. However, a lot of it stemmed from the influence my old teammate, Ally Holtz.

Q: Being a senior this year, how has your role on the team shifted?

A: I've definitely taken on more of a role model and leader role this year. I may not play the most minutes out of my class, who are all very talented, but I've taken on a role as supporter, encourager and hard worker. For me it was a struggle to transition into that role but it's been very rewarding.

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: I want us to win the WCC and with the incredible team we have now I think that we have the opportunity to possibly win the national championship. I don't want us to settle for anything less than what we are capable of.

Q: What are you looking forward to as the season ends?

A: I'm looking forward to possibly winning the WCC championship at home. Last year we won it at Pacific, which was great. But, winning it at home this year would be amazing. Also going to the NCAAs would be great.

Q: How has Pepperdine soccer shaped the person that you are today?

A: I've definitely changed a lot. I used to just go through the motions and do what was comfortable to me, but now I have higher goals and expectations for myself. That's the biggest thing that I think has changed for me. Also, how I interact with people around me, I no longer think just about myself because I have a team of 30 girls to look after.

Q: What would you say to soccer recruits interested in Pepperdine?

A: Definitely consider coming here! On the surface, Pepperdine is a great program and very competitive, but there's so much more. There are people here who care about you, who want to see you succeed and who will watch out for you.

Q: What are your plans post-graduation?

A: I want to take a year off to work abroad or get other new experiences. Then I'm going to apply to law school.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with Pepperdine soccer?

A: Singing "We Are the Champions" on the bus ride back from Pacific last year!

Cross Country Q&A: Nick Heath

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Nick Heath, the top runner on the men's cross country team, won the Highlander Invitational recently. He talks about his experience at the meet as well as his expectations for the WCC Championships coming up this Friday.

Nick  Heath

Q: How did you get into running?

A: I wasn't always into running. I actually just joined because some of my friends were joining the cross country team in our freshman year. I had never played a sport before and I'm not an extremely coordinated person so cross country seemed like something I could do. I wasn't very good at first but I liked it so I stuck with it. At first, I was really slow but with time I realized that I could be good at it if I just put in the work. So I did and by my sophomore year, I was the second-fastest guy on the team. Since then, it's been an amazing experience and I'm really glad I joined it.

Q: You have a really impressive record in cross country and track. What have been your proudest achievements?

A: I'd say one of my proudest moments in high school was when my cross country team qualified for the state meet for the first time in my school's history. The next year, we placed fifth and then in my senior year, we placed third. That progression was so satisfying and I was really proud of what my teammates and I did. As for college, at the end of last season, my race at the NCAA West Regional was probably the best race I've ever run.

Q: What has been different for you this year as compared to last year?

A: Personally, I had kind of a rough last track season. I got a serious hip injury and had to take about a month off. Coming back from that has definitely made me look at running differently and be a little more careful with myself. It has also made me value each day I'm here and able to do what I do. So much more than before my injury, and so coming into this season I won't take anything for granted.

As a team, it's been so great to have all the new freshmen who run alongside me every day and push me in our workouts and seeing them in races. I think they've been doing great things for the team.

Q: You won the Highlander Invitational last weekend. Can you talk about your experience at the invitational?

A: It was really fun. My coach showed me the results from last year before we raced and I was looking at some of the guys and I felt I could stick with the front pack because it seemed like a decent race. So I went out and I didn't take the lead immediately. I got off to a fairly normal start and worked my way up during the first mile. Once we got to the first-mile marker, I was up with the front runners and then from there, over the next mile, more and more people started dropping off the pack until eventually it was just me and one other guy, who I think was from Irvine. We ran side by side for the next mile and a half or so and we got to a point where there were about 600 meters left. That's when I broke away and I think he knew he couldn't keep on and so he just dropped off and I won.

Q: How did it feel to win at that meet?

A: It felt awesome. Honestly, it's just such a great feeling when you break away and take the lead. You get such a huge second wind and you just get this burst of inspiration and strength.

Q: Your next race is the WCC Championships. What are you hoping to achieve there and how are you feeling about it?

A: I've been looking forward to the WCCs for a while. We've got some really fast schools in our conference like Portland and BYU. I think last year I was kind of at the back of the pack of those two schools but I'm hoping this year I'll be able to beat some of their better runners and hopefully get into the top 10. And I'm also hoping to make a personal record. It's a new course and I haven't seen it before but it should be fun and I'm looking forward to it. Also, as a team, we've got a lot of new freshmen in and we're going to have a really good opportunity to do a lot better than we did last year. I don't know how it's going to turn out but I'm really hopeful about how we'll do.  

Q: What do you do before a meet to reduce pre-race anxiety?

A: For me, it's all about consistency. I like to treat every race as if it's a part of my normal routine. I get to bed early and wake up at my normal time and warm up with my team the way I normally would and finally when I'm at the starting line, I switch into race mode and get my game face on.

Q: What advice would you give to beginning athletes/runners?

A: My advice would be to stay patient and stick with it. Cross country is not something in which you'll see a huge transformation overnight. It's really just putting in the work every day to get better, step by step. As long as you keep focused and stay determined and take care of yourself, the difference between your first race and last race will be so incredibly huge and you will definitely go far.

Q: What have you learned in your years of training?

A: Mainly, I've learned the importance of being patient with myself. I've seen a lot of runners get stressed out and put too much pressure on themselves that they need to perform right here and right now at a race. I'm just grateful to be there and take the opportunity to do what I can and if it goes well then great, and if not, there's nothing I can do about it. I've also learned not to get carried away in training either. You've got to just run within your limits. Keep pushing yourself to expand those limits but remember that one day isn't going to make or break your career and so, just be patient.

Cross Country Q&A: Kyle Johnson

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Kyle Johnson, a freshman on Pepperdine's cross country team, shares his feelings about his first year on the team ahead of this week's WCC Championships. He also shows off his excitement toward the upcoming track season:

Kyle  Johnson

Q: How was your most recent meet?

A: UCR was a good tune-up meet right before WCCs. It was a change of pace from the normal 8K as we went down to 6K, which was nice to get the legs moving a bit faster.

Q: How have your first couple months been running at Pepperdine?

A: My first couple months have been great. I have been feeling very strong in and outside of the classroom. I really think I have found a nice home here. Also, running makes time fly by, plus getting eight hours of sleep really takes up a lot of my time.

Q: How is it running for Coach Radnoti?

A: Running for Coach Radnoti is interesting, he always keeps us honest with how we are feeling, as he is a very strong believer in the mind. That being said, he's always fun-loving and makes sure everyone is in a good mood.

Q: How has your progression been throughout this year?

A: My progression through this year has been odd as my fastest race has been my first one, which is not ideal, but at WCCs I know I will be faster. I believe in myself more than anyone else ever could so I am not too worried.

Q: What are your expectations for your four years?

A: Four years is a long time so I am not going to put any specific goals but I believe the sky is the limit, especially with Coach Radnoti's system and my work ethic. I know anything can happen.

Q: How is it adjusting from high school cross country to college?

A: In high school my workouts and mileage were not even close to this hard or long, so jumping up to college mileage was a big step for me. Not to say it was a bad thing, as I feel faster than I ever have been in my entire life.

Q: How is it being on a team with completely new people?

A: My teammates are incredible, each one bringing their own interesting personality traits and experiences to the table, making us a very well-rounded team. They really help me out because when you are as far away from home as some of the guys like me are, having that close family atmosphere definitely helps.

Q: What are your feelings toward track season? What events do you run?

A: I am excited for track! My events are going to be the 5K and 10K. This whole year my mileage has been lower than everyone. I have been beating people in races so by track I hope to catch up closer to 90 a week and make a big jump in my performances.

Q: Since you are from Michigan, why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because of the people here. It feels like the family and team atmosphere that I had back home, which I know will allow me to flourish out here and also because of Coach Radnoti.

Q: How does cross country work with your major (computer science/math)?

A: Cross country works well with my major. I would not say it is the hardest major on campus, but it definitely kicks my butt sometimes. Really, as long as I stay on top of everything and manage my time well, I know I can achieve anything.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Trae Berhow

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Trae Berhow, a freshman guard on the men's basketball team, talks about his transition from living in a small town in Minnesota to studying in Malibu, as well as his goals for the season:

Trae  Berhow

Q: You're from Minnesota. How has the transition been so far?

A: The weather has definitely been a huge change. Though the summer in Minnesota is pretty hot because of the humidity, it's still been so different. The biggest change for me has been the ocean because in Minnesota all we have is the lakes. It has been nice to get to go to the beach here because everyone is always tanning or chilling on the beach or surfing, which is one thing I definitely want to learn how to do while I'm here. In Minnesota, we go on the lake in boats or go knee boarding which is kind of like surfing but it's also a lot different because you're in the middle of the lake instead of on the beach.

Q: How have you been liking Pepperdine so far?

A: I really love it. Everything here is a lot closer in terms of stores and restaurants because my hometown was pretty small and the only place to get food near me was Subway. Also, I've really liked being on a college campus where I can get food or use the gym whenever I want so it's definitely a lot nicer and it's been great so far.

Q: As a freshman, how has the first month been, in terms of basketball?

A: It's a big change coming in from high school because the workload is a lot more. Before this semester we had summer sessions and so I knew what to expect in terms of the athletics, which definitely helped a lot. I would have to say the biggest change for me was lifting because, in my high school, lifting wasn't as mandatory, which is different from Pepperdine where lifting is really important and as an athlete here if you don't lift, you don't become stronger or a better player. So that was definitely a huge change for me in terms of sports here.

Q: How have you been coping with juggling sports and college academics so far?

A: Academics here have been a huge change for me because, obviously, Pepperdine is one of the higher academic colleges. For the student-athletes we have something called study table which is a mandatory study hall for eight hours in the week where we have to use that time to finish our homework. So that helps a lot because it makes sure we aren't behind on any of our assignments. We even have tutors for our classes, who are really great. I have a couple of tutors and I think even if you feel you're doing okay with your studies you should go to a tutor anyway just to get their perspective on things and that helps a lot.

Q: What do you think of the team so far?

A: I think the team is going to be really good this year. I think the one big thing is that we're going to have to stay healthy. We're going to have a young team based around Amadi (Udenyi), who's one of our main leaders and Kevin (Hempy), both of whom are seniors, and we also have Matt (Atewe), our graduate transfer. So we have some older people to base it around, who have some good experience and can teach some of the young guys, which is going to help a lot. Overall we're going to be a young team but I really think we're going to surprise some people after the year we had last year.

Q: How would you describe the coaching style?

A: At Pepperdine they really preach defense and even my saying is, "Defense wins games," so in that sense we're definitely going to be an up-tempo team. But obviously, we'll slow it down when we have to. There's a lot of competition in practices, which helps because it obviously makes everyone want to work harder and we get better because of it.

Q: What goals have you set for yourself this season?

A: Starting off one of my goals is to be one of the bigger threats on defense and to be guarding one of the best players on the opposing team. Our goals as a team would be to be one of the top three in our conference and hopefully beat Gonzaga because that would be big. I really think we can do it if we make a push in the tournament and play the way we should play.

Q: Are you excited for your first college game coming up next month?

A: I'm so excited. We're going over to play Oklahoma State so the crowd is going to be packed and I think it's going to be their first game too. It's a good team to play and if we can beat them, everyone's eyes are going to open right away so it's going to be a big game for us.

Q: In your bio, you'd said, "A ball can pay for anything if you work for it." Would you like to elaborate on that?

A: I think in basketball if you work hard then it can pay for the rest of your life. Going to the NBA or overseas can be your job and my main goal is to have a good life, doing something I love every day while making money off of it. The ball can do that for people and I think that's amazing.

Charles Olsen, a fifth-year senior on the Pepperdine men's water polo team, has a lot of insight from his time here at Pepperdine. He shares with us his goals for the rest of the season and his plans for the future:

Charles  Olsen

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: The season has been good. We started off pretty strong, but we were not playing the hardest teams. We were 9-0 to begin with. Then we started playing some really good teams. Our first hard game was against Cal and we played really well, and we only lost by a couple of goals. That was the first time we realized that we could do really well this season. We had more games where we only lost by one or so goals. I feel like we are there, we just need to figure out flow out a little more and play better from the beginning.

Q: How is the team preparing in order to repeat being GCC Tournament champions and trying to get to the NCAA Championships?

A: Our coaches have really emphasized the details. In practice, we would sometimes have 15 minutes to warm up on our own. We would not take advantage of that and just mess around. So our coaches have taken a stronger hold on how we are warming up and how we carry ourselves on and off the pool deck. They want us to focus on the times where it would be easier to just chill and relax, but instead use them to focus on opportunities that we are missing to improve our game.

Q: What are your personal goals for the season?

A: My personal goal is to be the best I can be. It is my last year, so I want to be remembered as someone who had grit and did not fold when we got down. I want to really believe we can win when we play a good team and do my best under a lot of pressure.

Q: What do you think your role on the team is?

A: I am not a starter, but I am usually first or second off the bench. My job is to go in for our captain Mark Urban, and play as hard as I can against his defender and swim his defender up and down the pool, bug him as much as I can, so that when Mark comes back in, his defender is too tired and Mark can get past him easily. I do score every now and then, but my main role is to go in and make Mark's job easier.

Q: What is it like being a fifth-year senior?

A: It is crazy. This morning at weights, this old song came on when we were lifting and it reminded me of the first month I was at Pepperdine lifting in the same gym. I looked at the freshmen, and thought about how quickly these years go by. It is about to be over, but it has been fun.

Q: What would you tell your freshman self, knowing all that you know now?

A: I would for sure tell myself to do better in school and to be smarter about who you confide in and trust. When I was a freshman, I hung out with whoever I met first. Those people were people who were not making the best choices, and I saw myself doing the same thing they were doing. I think it is important to take a long-term approach. You are going to have your fun in college, and there is no specific thing you have to do in order to have fun. I would tell myself to branch out more from the beginning.

Q: Do you have any post-grad plans?

A: I have a few. I want to be an FBI agent, but I have to have three years of professional experience before I can even apply. I need to go out and do something really well and then I can apply. I am thinking about getting an MBA or starting my own company.

Q: What made you want to be an FBI agent?

A: Both of my parents were FBI agents. My mom recently retired and when she was giving her retirement speech she noted how she got to have such an impact on the world and as a mother her job is to keep her son safe. She really felt that as she was doing her job, she was making the world a better place for me. I think it is really cool to have such a direct impact. I feel like both of my parents have really kept me safe.

Q: Looking back over the past years, what has been your favorite memory?

A: I feel like people want to say when we won the GCC Tournament, but it wasn't that for me at all. I actually did not play in that game. I did not play well the whole tournament and I understand why the coaches didn't play me and I honestly did not trust myself to play. That moment was really cool, but the best moments for me were more like the bus ride up to the tournament. We had dinner together and we would all stack up our phones in the middle and talk to one another. It was the little things that might not be the most fun in the moment, but those are the best moments to look back on. Winning is great, but what stands out more is the journey and they guys you become men with.

Q: Is there anything you want to do before leaving Pepperdine that you have not gotten to do yet?

A: If we could make it to the NCAA Tournament and give it our best that would be great. I think that is definitely feasible for us. In general, I want to meet as many people as I can before I am done. In the future I am not going to have this many cool and smart people around me all the time. It is so cool to make connections with other students and teachers here at Pepperdine.

Blossom Sato transferred to Pepperdine this year to play on the women's volleyball team. The Waves' setter shares what her transition to Pepperdine has been like and what she hopes to do on and off the court:
Blossom  Sato

Q: How has your transition from Mississippi State to Pepperdine been?

A: It has been super awesome. I actually grew up here, so I am super excited to be back and to be a student here. I've known our coach, Scott (Wong), for a really long time through family. Scott and all the other coaches have been really supportive and the girls have been great too.

Q: What is the major difference between Starkville and Malibu?

A: Other than the view, I would say the size of the school and the environment. Starkville is super focused on football, basketball and baseball. At Pepperdine, academics are the focus, but the school still supports the athletes. It is a really good balance.

Q: What made you decided to come back to Southern California?

A: Things were not working out in Mississippi with volleyball and I was really homesick and unhappy. I contacted coaches throughout Southern California and Pepperdine wanted me to play for them, and I was excited to play for Pepperdine.

Q: Were you expecting to come in and play right away?

A: I was not expecting anything at all. I knew that they had two setters already. I had seen them play and knew that they were good. I was just excited to be competing again and getting better for myself and to help the team as much as I could.

Q: What are your goals at Pepperdine?

A: I really want to help the team win conference. I know there's a lot of competition, so it would be super huge if we could win conference and make it to the NCAA Tournament. That would be such a great year. I only have two years left, so I am trying to help make that happen.

Q: What do you think your role is on the team? Or what do you hope it will be?

A: Being new was hard because I had to try and learn how my teammates acted and their personalities. I want to be a leader and I want to be a person who anyone can depend on both on and off the court with any problems they may have. I think that is going pretty well so far. We have a lot of leaders on the team, so everyone feels comfortable going to everyone. It is really awesome because I have never been on a team like that before.

Q: Volleyball seems to run in your family. How has your mom and uncles' successful careers influenced you?

A: All I did growing up was be around volleyball. I did not start playing competitively until ninth grade. I have two older cousins who also play, so we were always close and grew up playing volleyball together. Everybody always thought that we had to play volleyball because our family played, but we really didn't. We just enjoyed it so much that we wanted to play. I got to play against my cousin this past preseason, and it was really fun because I had never played against her before.

Q: Do you have any bucket list items to do while you are in Malibu?

A: I want to go on more hikes. I don't get to go on them very often, but I really want to hike more. I know there is a swing along the coast under one of the houses, so I want to find those.